Tag Archives: Richard III

Current and Recent Reading

It has been a bit of a slow reading year so far. Not that I haven’t been reading (68 completed books to date), not that I haven’t been reading widely (both fiction and non-fiction, the old books percentage is up-to-date), but nothing has really stood out so far. Sometimes that happens, then BAM, a book hits you over the head. Still looking for the BAM book.

Enjoyable current reads:

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. I started this one a while ago and never got past the first page. Not sure why. This time I’m enjoying it very much. There is this lovely little bit on books and reading near the beginning. The main character is in hospital recovering from a serious fall and is contemplating with some disgust the pile of books kind friends have sent in.

Even in that, you knew what to expect on the next page. Did no one, any more, no one in all this wide world, change their record now and then? Was everyone nowadays thrilled to a formula? Authors today wrote so much to a pattern that their public expected it. The public talked about ‘a new Silas Weekley’ or ‘a new Lavinia Fitch’ exactly as they talked about ‘a new brick’ or ‘a new hairbrush’. They never said ‘a new book by’ whoever it might be. Their interest was not in the book but in its newness. They knew quite well what the book would be like.

Excellent. The book itself is about Richard III, monarch who has recently been in the news because he was dug up out of a car park. This book is a great novel to give beginning history students, or anyone who thinks all history they’ve heard in school is true. This is one of my older books, so there is no discussion of kings in car parks at all.

Longbourn by Jo Baker. Below-stairs at the Bennet’s house during the events related in Pride and Prejudice. So far this is a well-imagined mirror world. I’m quite enjoying it.

Recent Reads:

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs. A very enjoyable essay on reading and its benefits. Jacobs does not rail against the internet and all distractions, but talks about them as one who has been distracted, but managed to find his way back from distraction. With an e-reader. True story.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. I had high expectations of this book as many people said this was THE Murakami book as far as they were concerned. I’m not quite sure. I think I liked 1Q84 better. It is the fourth Murakami I’ve read, and it isn’t the last, but so far it isn’t my favourite. Possibly I was reading it at the wrong time.

What have you been reading?

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FIVE Non-Fiction Books!

(Sing the title to the Five line of the 12 Days of Christmas. Ok, it doesn’t quite fit perfectly, but that’s what’s in my head.)

I mentioned in my 4 reasons for not posting for a while that I went on a road trip last month. I listened to two non-fiction audio-books on the road, one for the way there, and one for the way back. Let me tell you about those two books and three other non-fiction books that I read after that road trip.

  1. Mysteries of the Middle Ages: The Rise of Feminism, Science, and Art from the Cults of Catholic Europe by Thomas Cahill. I’ve read Cahill before. I quite enjoyed his How the Irish Saved Civilization in the “Hinges of History” series. This book also fits into that series. I’m afraid I didn’t find Mysteries as well argued as How the Irish. I read the Irish book and came away convinced of the importance of the Irish monks in preserving historical documents in the early Middle Ages. Mysteries I found over-ambitious in its reach and without a clear-cut argument. I think Cahill was trying to show that good things came out of the Medieval Catholic Church, but I didn’t need convincing of that. He also elevated the expression “vox populi, vox deus” to scriptural status, which I find unwarranted. I am pretty sure that the vox populi can be misguided. Witness Rob Ford. The book contains interesting stories about interesting people, but its overall argument is not strong.
  2. The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum. I rather enjoyed this tale of murder and death in New York City, despite the general sense that it is in essence a tract on the evils of prohibition. Besides railing on the US Government and its misguided prohibition amendment, the book tells the story of NY City’s first medical examiner and his colleague, who developed the field of forensic toxicology. It is pretty interesting stuff. You should read it. Or listen to it.
  3. The Lion’s World by Rowan Williams. This is Rowan Williams’s reflection on Narnia. Reading this short book made me want to read all the Narnia books again. I am still not convinced that one should read the Narnian books in chronological order as Williams suggests (and yes, I know Lewis suggested it too) but Williams did give me different ways of looking at some parts of the books that I’ve never really liked, including seeing the value of The Last Battle, my least favourite book in the series.
  4. Time’s Anvil: England, Archaeology and the Imagination by Richard Morris. This is a fascinating book. I read it over a very long time, more than six months, and it talks about understanding the data of archaeology in different ways, so that the past can be accurately heard in the data. I thought about finding Richard III a lot when I read the chapter on digging up battles and seeing that the story told by the remains doesn’t match the written historical record. The aerial survey photos and the writing about new techniques in archaeology are extremely interesting.
  5. Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis. I’d not read this particular Lewis book before. I found his reflection on Praise the best part of the book. It is a nice short book, and easy to access.

What non-fiction books are you reading?

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Counterfactuals and Surreal History

Some bits and pieces for a Saturday night.

1. The top-ten counterfactual novels as picked by a guy who wrote one about King Edward VIII. I’ve read a few on his list and agree with him that these are good. I’d love to read Dominion by C.J. Sansom but have not been able to find a copy in North America. Must Look Harder.

2. In Real History that is pretty surreal, have you been following the whole Richard III thing? If not I’ve got a couple of videos for you to watch. First, the academics summarize what they found and present evidence to show that they found the body of Richard III. Then watch the whole story as told in this BBC 4 special, The King in the Car Park. Really cool and totally worth your time, even if you are procrastinating, like me.

3. For the connections between the War of the Roses and Game of Thrones (you didn’t know there was a connection?) see this blog post also on Richard III, but now on his burial, which has become quite controversial. Pretty sure wherever the reinterment occurs it will be a hot ticket next summer.

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